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George Barna's book entitled “The Power of Team Leadership” describes the power, need and gain of an approach to leadership based on teams. The first part of this book deals with the challenges faced by churches, when they choose to lead independently. Almost halfway the book, Barna addresses the advantages of engaging team leadership. Towards the end of the book, the focus shifts on the implementation of team leadership and shares on some issues to be avoided in the leadership. Barna believes that great ministers in ministry suffer exhaustion, because they are employed based on their strengths. However, they are expected to serve as leaders in such areas, where they may in most times be weak. Barna questions the manner in which pastors are set up for ministry only to fail through a solo model of leadership instead of making use of the people’s abilities and talents in the church. The author says, "We set up people for frustration, disappointment and failure by basing their present and future well-being upon the capacity of the individual leader, whom they most closely follow in any given dimension of their lives".
Barna gives a perfect example of our most dynamic leaders in the society who have exhibited weakness in some areas. He then reiterates that the church and the pastors are not an exception and need the services of other talented individuals. He says, "Team leadership is the only approach that carries the promise of satisfying the needs of our society."The book emphasizes on the importance of incorporating a structure of organization in churches that make use of the combined strengths of various people in leadership to maximize achievement than the case would be, when a single individual was in leadership alone. While an individual could be having abilities and talents, Barna advocates for team leadership, which can accomplish more than what a sole individual would.
Barna raises some concern for most churches, which have continued to operate under the assumption of what can be referred to as a ‘superstar’ form of leadership, where the pastor stands autonomously. The pastor is taken as the best and the only way through which the mission of the church can be accomplished. This is an unfortunate position that is highlighted by the book. Without some experimental validity, there can be a lot of harm done to interfere with the welfare of the church organization. This does not facilitate the well-being of the church. According to Barna, the use of a small team of leaders with individual gifts and skills could produce amazing results, if they are brought together to share the same vision and work together to get other people to a certain goal. This shared responsibility gains an upper hand from the book and it is thought to support the vision and achievement in the organization.
According to Barna, the leadership of a team produces more output than the efforts of a single person regardless of his skills and charisma. Barna’s example is a perfect one: "As the leadership capacity of the church grew, so did its attendance and budget”. The author tackles some fears that many of the leaders think it is admitting defeat, when they ask for assistance in leadership in accomplishing the vision of the church. Barna gives examples of Nehemiah, Joshua and Moses among other great leaders who worked in teams. Having a clear vision and embarking on the task, is a very important aspect highlighted by the author. Barna says that the teams must comprise of some specifics of forming a team and various aptitudes of a leader.
Contemporary leadership in modern churches is drawn from ‘solo practitioners’. These are people with a whole lot of burden in making provision for all the guidelines and directives in the ministry they head. This has resulted in leaders who are burned out. Moreover, it also creates a scenario whereby there are many more underutilized lay individuals who just avail themselves and see operations in church instead of being involved in the ministry, taking part in discipleship and freeing expert staff to concentrate on pastoral priorities. In his book, “The Power of Team Leadership”, George Barna highlights the unbelievable difference that this lay-team leadership can produce in a ministry of the church.The book presents good information that is needed for churches for the purposes of recruiting, training and deploying teams of leadership for the maximum excellence in church organizations.
George triggers a personal experience I had while serving in my local church. I would compare the church to a group of individuals called for one purpose and duty in the kingdom of God. However, one of the spiritual leaders in the recent past from my local church appeared to run short of this. The leader would at some point say, “As the spiritual leader here, my decision is final.” Well, a leader and especially on church grounds is supposed to show decorum and submission at all levels. Actually, I have seen the same church move from one problem to another due to this misguided opinion. In essence, the way to succeed in God’s ministry is taking the position of a servant leader. The leader in this church caused more harm than help to the faithfuls in the ministry. Many of them were actually walking in faithfulness to God’s calling and blessed indeed. However, something somewhere was not working out well and this was on the part of leadership.
When we come to think of team leadership, it is more than what George Barna has demonstrated through this book. It is, indeed, very important to get the facts right concerning team leadership and the power that the author is talking about. George demonstrates the power of lay-leadership teams as it contrasts staff leaders who overwork themselves by doing everything by themselves in the context of ministry. It is important for the reader to understand how team leadership is made possible, because it does not just come through a mere talk. Most importantly, the spirit of team leadership must be driven through a sense of purpose created in the lives of the members. This is the highest motivation factor that can make members cooperate and function together as a team. While the author has created some insight into team leadership, there should have been some compelling recent research that would have helped in delivering a very clear pathway of achieving this goal.
For the purposes of recruiting, training and deploying leaders for great achievement, something must be done outside an individual’s personal will. The leader is not supposed to serve the people’s ambitions, but instead lead for the glory of God. Jesus says that, if any man chooses to serve him, he must follow him. This creates a deeper understanding that, to be effective in ministry, we must not seek to gratify ourselves, but to do the will of the owner of the ministry. A team will thus be effective, if service is not directly towards the wish of one person, but in pursuit of the common will of God. George entirely covers the subject of leadership, but apparently, the meaning is not defined clearly. The idea could turn out to be a flawed concept due to lack of clarity. The idea of a team captain looks like a radical replacement of the concept of a leader. We may want to ask, “What difference is there in this approach?”
Team leadership is becoming a very important approach in modern society and specifically in the churches. However, uniformed and flawed approach based on team leadership is likely going to be of no consequence in accomplishing the aims and objectives of churches and other organizations. A team is usually a small group of individuals with skills that complement each other and with a commitment towards a common goal and purpose. It is important to know, that a team must employ a working approach for which they hold themselves communally responsible. This is something which George Barna needed to emphasize.
With the insight I got from the book, my first step of action as I serve in my local church will be to ensure that members take part in the process of making decisions and build consensus from time to time with two-way communication between members and the leader. We must follow the example of Jesus in working as a team. Jesus says that the same works that he does bears witness that the Father is part of them. They work as a team even though the Father reigns. All through the scriptures, there are moments where team leadership proved to be the best way to go. Some of the successful leaders like Nehemiah, Paul and Moses valued the idea of team leadership. While dispensing his duties, Moses delegated some of them to the elders to address the Israelites. The calling of the twelve disciples by Christ is a perfect example. These people took over leadership after he ascended to heaven. Thus, this is the point of action. Team leadership must seek to mentor other people so that the ministry can still stand in their absence. A very common thread amongst these outstanding leaders is the recognition of a God –given directives. Thus, leadership needs a vision of where the followers are expected to go, something that Barna highlights by saying that, if there is no articulation of what is to be achieved, it would be hard to take people there.
Secondly, I must work to show diligence as a leader in discerning the unique vision of God for the church by showing an understanding of personal abilities and gifts. This can only be achieved through a study of the community within which they serve. According to Barna, "A leader must have the capacity to study a situation, interpret the findings intelligently, conceive a strategic course of action, marshal the resources to implement the response, and monitor progress and make mid-course adjustments as necessary". Developing a very deep personal relationship with God should come in first for any leader expecting to propagate team leadership in managing the affairs of the church. The leader can also test the God-given vision through different methods before making a declaration to other people. There are quite a number of reasons why many of the churches in the contemporary society do not apply a different approach from what they have been doing. It is very important to embrace change and apply a model that suits a particular situation. Sometimes, experience may not be useful. Even if something has not been applied in the past, it is important to consider its application through the discretion of the team members.
Thirdly, the vital concept embedded in the gifts of leadership is to empower members to do work what befits the ministry. It is, therefore, important for me as a leader to recognize the gifted and the called by God in matters of leadership. There are quite a number of particular competencies, which could be the evidence of the leadership material needed for success. All the same, people should be called to ministry by God and must show a godly character prior to accomplishing the task successfully. According to Barna, a leadership team must have a leader to direct it, someone to strategize, another for team-building purposes and someone else to take charge of operations. Thus, each member of the team should compliment the character of the other team mates. Well, the possibility of having full team functionality cannot be ascertained until this is achieved. All the same, there should be initial and refresher training to boost the effort.